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Thursday, June 03, 2021


by Phyllis Klein

including two excerpts of incriminating lines

Poetry remains alive in Myanmar, where unconventional weapons are being used to fight a military that has killed more than 800 people since it staged a coup on Feb. 1 and ousted an elected government. For some democracy activists, their politics cannot be separated from their poetry. Sensing the power of carefully chosen words, the generals have imprisoned more than 30 poets since the putsch, according to the National Poets’ Union. At least four have been killed, all from the township of Monywa, which is nestled in the hot plains of central Myanmar and has emerged as a center of fierce resistance to the coup. Photo: Ko Chan Thar Swe, who had left the Buddhist monkhood to write poetry, was killed in March. —The New York Times, May 28, 2021

They shoot down hands filled with artilleries
of verse, beat up feet filing into lines
of protest. They shoot at heads

but they do not know that revolution 
lives in the heart. In darkness, in daylight,
minds and hearts bulleted, to make them 
stop. But no silence. Poetry sharpens its quills, 

aims arrows into its targets. They began to burn 
the poets when the smoke of burned books could
no longer choke the lungs heavy with dissent. 
Now their smoke is everywhere as poets are doused
and matched. And still they write. Scratch words 

into cell walls with rocks, or with metal on plastic— 
bitter-cold vinyl ballads. Or memorized signposts
of the mind, indelible. Troubadours of protest 
in waves of heat. In monsoons on horizons. 

On every street in the world. Pursued by silver-ribboned 
militias climbing up a tyrannical ladder. Nibs filled 
with poison-to-the-wicked-ink. Fingerprints cupping my

face, your face, walls of alarms clanging 
against silence, revolutions of clocks’ hands.

Phyllis Klein’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is a finalist in the Sweet Poetry Contest, 2017, the Carolyn Forche Humanitarian Poetry Contest, 2019, and the Fischer Prize, 2019. She was nominated for a Pushcart prize in 2018 and again in 2020. She has a new book, The Full Moon Herald, from Grayson Books that just won honorable mention for poetry from the Eric Hoffer Book Award, 2021. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 30 years, she sees writing as artistic dialogue between author and readers—an intimate relationship-building process that fosters healing on many levels.